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Mind's Eye
Paul McAuley
Simon & Schuster UK, 423 pages

Mind's Eye
Paul McAuley
Paul McAuley was born in England in 1955 and currently lives in Scotland. He worked as a researcher in biology at various universities before going to St. Andrew's University as a lecturer in botany for 6 years. He's chosen to move on to become a full-time writer.

His first novel, Four Hundred Billion Stars, won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award and several subsequent novels have been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, winning one for Fairyland which also won the 1997 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. His short story, "The Temptation of Dr. Stein," won the British Fantasy Award. Pasquale's Angel won the very first Sidewise Award for Alternate History (Long Form) in 1996. McAuley also produces a regular review column for Interzone and contributes reviews to Foundation.

Paul J. McAuley Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: White Devils
SF Site Review: Making History
SF Site Review: Fairyland
SF Site Reading List: Paul J. McAuley
SF Site Review: Whole Wide World
SF Site Review: The Secret of Life
SF Site Interview: Paul J. McAuley
SF Site Excerpt: The Secret of Life
SF Site Review: Shrine of Stars
SF Site Review: Pasquale's Angel
SF Site Review: Ancients of Days
SF Site Review: The Invisible Country
SF Site Review: Child Of The River
SF Site Review: Fairyland

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

At the 2005 Minicon, a friend of mine was talking about science fiction writers who were trying their hand at thrillers, mixing in a little near-future science with their mystery, intrigue, and violence. Their problem, he remarked, was that the SF writers could never resist turning their stories into science fiction, usually giving their work a little more depth and complexity than the average thriller, but also cutting down on their chances of breaking through to a wider audience.

Paul McAuley could be the poster-boy for this phenomenon. His last novel, White Devils, was a tense exploration of a near-future Africa caught up in a bio-engineered nightmare, but the science was a little too complicated and a little too real to lure many readers away from Michael Crichton, and McAuley's own literary ambitions, the allusions to Apocalypse Now and the desire to give his characters some emotional depth certainly could have left behind readers who are more interested in the destruction that weapons can cause than in why they are being used.

Nevertheless, given the difference in sales numbers between the average SF novel and the average mass-market thriller, it's easy to see that a book doesn't have to become a world-wide sensation in order to be a success from the viewpoint of the science fiction writer. And if you're good at it, there's even less reason to not continue on your chosen path. Thus comes Mind's Eye, the latest novel By Paul McAuley, a spies and ancient conspiracies thriller that matches White Devils page-by-page in intensity and characterization, and outdoes it in the smooth way a bit of scientific speculation is woven into the basis of the plot and historical background.

The story begins with an episode from the childhood of Alfie Flowers, one that left him with a mild form of epilepsy. Years later, as a professional photographer, he sees a design by a graffiti artist that brings back his childhood trauma. Alfie enlists the help of a friend, Toby Brown, and together they search for Morph, the graffiti artist.

Meanwhile, Harriet Crowley, a securities expert with ties to British Intelligence agencies is also hunting for Morph and the glyph, not because of epilepsy but because the glyph can be used in a form of mind-control, the visual pattern in combination with certain drugs goes right into the depths of the brain, provoking deep-ingrained responses and leaving the recipient open to outside suggestion and control. The glyphs have been used before, in a disastrous experiment conducted by the CIA that resulted in the deaths of thousands, and Harriet believes the men responsible have returned and are hunting Morph. Mind's Eye starts out deceptively light, with its main character in pursuit of a family mystery, but from the moment Harriet and Alfie's paths cross Mind's Eye is taught and tense, with a story that roams from England to the Middle East.

Mind's Eye may be a step closer to the mainstream than was White Devils, but SF readers will still find plenty here to appreciate. The glyphs and their effect on human psychology is built on speculation and presented in a manner that would have done Philip K. Dick proud. The recounting of the unleashing of the glyphs on an isolated village sounds eerily like the attack of the forces of free-market consumerism in Frederik Pohl's The Merchants War, with the difference that Pohl plays the idea for its satirical affect, while McAuley makes it all too real.

Mind's Eye probably won't propel McAuley's career into the same place as Stephen King, Michael Crichton and all the others, but it should continue to build on the same audience that appreciated White Devils. If you enjoy a good suspense story supported by solid speculation and interesting characters, Mind's Eye deserves a place on your reading list.

Copyright © 2005 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson couldn't help but notice some strange after-effects since vieweing a recent glyph exhibition in St. Paul, Minnesota. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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